Posted by: Alexandra Evans, Consular Officer
You probably know the difference between a public school and a private school, but do you know what a charter school is? Do you know the difference between a college and a university? Do you know what it means to be a “liberal arts school” versus a “research institution?” These are some of the distinctions I discussed at my lecture at Taras Shevchenko University. I gave an overview of four schools in the United States – two secondary institutions where I taught before joining the Foreign Service, and two post-secondary institutions where I studied.
First, I introduced two secondary schools. The Khabele School is an independent private school in Austin, TX. Opportunities for Learning is a public charter school with locations in Southern California. While the Khabele School follows a more or less traditional educational model, its small class sizes and independence from the public school system give it more flexibility in meeting students’ unique needs. As a charter school, Opportunities for Learning is more closely tied to the public school system but is authorized to provide a unique, independent-study learning environment which best suits the needs of the at-risk students it serves.
We next discussed two excellent, but very different, post-secondary institutions: The University of Wisconsin and Wellesley College. The University of Wisconsin is a large, public research university. It has numerous locations throughout the state of Wisconsin, a plethora of facilities and resources, and being a university, it offers both undergraduate and graduate degrees. Wellesley is a private, liberal arts college in Massachusetts. As a small, liberal arts college, its focus is on providing a broad and high-quality undergraduate education with lots of access to professors, research grants, internships and study abroad opportunities. We discussed the pros and cons of attending larger or smaller schools, as well as why one might choose a women’s school like Wellesley (or a men’s college like Morehouse) over a co-ed school like the University of Wisconsin. For instance, some young women notice that their intellectual inhibitions drop when in the company of only women. They feel less shy, are more willing to express their opinions and ask questions, and thus get more out of being in class.
We also discussed the accreditation process in the United States, which varies from state to state and region to region. In larger states, like Texas, the state’s department of education oversees accreditation of all schools. In other areas, such as New England, which are comprised of smaller states, states band together and form one accrediting body for numerous states. International schools may also approach these groups for accreditation, so that their degrees will be accepted by other institutions in the United States. Did you know that the same group, the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, accredits both Wellesley College and Pechersk School International, right here in Kyiv?